Measure of gold purity / TUES 4-28-20 / Number with all its letters in alphabetical order / Hodgepodge / Soundly defeats, colloquially

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hello! It's Clare today for the last Tuesday of April. At least, I think it's Tuesday? The shelter-in-place has been going on so long that all the days are starting to blur together. The only thing orienting me right now is that I have a final on May 1 — don't ask me what day of the week that is, though. I hope you all are staying healthy and safe! I've been back home in California for a bit, and I'm taking my law school finals online and trying to stay motivated. It's not easy! Especially because my love for BTS has only grown (for those who read my write-up last month, I was indeed talking about the K-pop group known for their amazing lyrics/music and dance routines). My YouTube recommendations are now just entirely their videos, which has kept me pretty distracted.

Yes, I might be going a little stir-crazy. So, on that note, let's get to the puzzle!

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard

THEME: Replacing the "TR" sound in the final word of each of the theme answers with "TW"

Theme answers:
  • COMPANY RETWEET (19A: Endorsement from a brand's account?)
  • OLD BAG OF TWIX (24A: Some Halloween candy discovered in February?)
  • FAMILY TWEEZE (40A: When the whole clan gets their eyebrows done?)
  • HIGH SPEED TWAIN (46A: CliffsNotes version of "Huckleberry Finn"?)
Word of the Day: SAM SPADE (35D: "The Maltese Falcon" detective) —

Sam Spade is a fictional character and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon. Spade also appeared in four lesser-known short stories by Hammett. The Maltese Falcon, first published as a serial in the pulp magazine Black Mask, is the only full-length novel in which Spade appears. The character, however, is widely cited as a crystallizing figure in the development of hard-boiled private detective fiction—Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, for instance, was strongly influenced by Spade. (Wiki)
• • •
Maybe I've been staring at the walls (and textbooks) too long, but, for me, the puzzle today mostly fell flat. The theme didn't feel clever enough to take up so much space in the puzzle, and theme just sort of sat there — it was fine, but it didn't even get an ironic "hah" from me. I know there doesn't always need to be a revealer in a puzzle, but I do think this particular puzzle could have benefitted from something to tie the puzzle together — maybe a clue involving Elmer Fudd, as he is known for having a speech impediment that changes an r-sound to a w-sound (fact I learned from Google: This is known as rhotacism). The pun I found the funniest was HIGH SPEED TWAIN, but this also feels like the biggest reach — I'm not sure that this answer makes sense for the clue. Then, the rest of the puzzle didn't do much for me, either, with some very literal clues and answers and some truly odd words to see in a puzzle as fill. I mean, BLAMABLE? That's just an ugly word. And, TOENAILS? When the most interesting down in the puzzle is TOENAILS — and they always get an "ew" reaction from me — I think there's a problem.

In general, I felt like I wasn't on the same wavelength as the constructor for most of the puzzle and kept putting in wrong answers. I got off to a bad start in the puzzle pretty quickly with 1A: Honey bunch? It took me a while to figure out it was COMB rather than "bees" or "hive" or something like that. I also just generally disliked the clue for EMTS59A: Some volunteers at music festivals, for short. There are so many other ways to clue this that aren't bizarre, including making the puzzle more current and mentioning how awesome and integral and heroic EMTS are on the front line of the pandemic and how important their work is. And, why clue in relation to music festivals, which aren't even happening right now (I know because I'd been planning to see BTS in concert yesterday!).

I did like some of the good literature references we've got in the puzzle with WOOLF for "Mrs. Dalloway," DAISY from "The Great Gatsby," and SAM SPADE from "The Maltese Falcon." Those are some great book choices. Dashiell Hammett's Brigid O'Shaughnessy was the first femme-fatale character I read, and I'll never tire of reading anything F. Scott Fitzgerald writes. I mean, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past," Like, come one!

  • 21D: Complete fool as TWIT made me weirdly happy, because it reminded me of the book "The Twits" by Roald Dahl, which is one of his strangest books, but I loved it. According to Wikipedia, Dahl wrote this book because of his hatred of beards. The first line of the book is, "What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!"
  • The puzzle was a tad "current" today with DISS track (49D) and FACE SWAP (8D: Popular app feature that generates funny photos). Though the puzzle also had FWIW, and I can guarantee you that nobody under the age of 30 actually uses this. 
  • I went on a rant last time about UCLA in honor of my sister, who went to Cal, and the constructor today had the audacity to make me type out this school again!
  • Anyone else being trendy right now and making a LOAF (or loaves) of bread? With the run on banana bread, do stores even have any bananas left? My sister won't stop talking about how we need to make a sourdough starter.
Signed, Clare Carroll, a twitchy twenty-something

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Unknown 12:44 AM  

good luck on your exams
and stay safe

okanaganer 1:08 AM  

Rachel, nice to read you again, and thank you for posting in the evening (right after I've done the puzzle) rather than morning (when I've pretty much forgotten it).

But I liked this theme, and how it recalled Elmer and Sylvester and Tweety(!), those lisping Mel Blanc / Merrie Melodie voices. HIGH SPEED TWAIN.. yah, not easy to clue (maybe: "Old Tom Sawyer soundtrack album played at 78 instead of 33 RPM?") But jeez it's fun just to say it in a little kid voice. TWAINNN...

"Desert rarity" = RAIN, reminded me of the last time I drove across the Mojave desert in December 2010. It absolutely poured buckets the whole way. I even pulled off the highway for a rest from the deluge. They only get 2 inches of rain a year; I think they got that in a day.

LILAC blossoms are just coming out here in southwestern Canada.

Tale Told By An Idiot 1:10 AM  

OK, it was a little odd that the majordomo applied the hot wax with a comb, but he assured me it was the best way to get the sleek, swanky, 24-karat look I wanted. My wrists adorned with opal, my toenails painted lilac, a daisy in my hair, I walked across the golf course toward ....

Suddenly I awoke, sat up, and looked around. The rain had poured into the tent; there was nothing to eat but an old bag of Twix; I had eaten - or was it smoked? - all the hash. And I had had that heretical dream again - the one where I’m in the papal palace and he uses tatty ties and ....

No no, ain’t gonna diss him again.

jae 1:15 AM  

Tough. Got hung up in several places: olio before HASH, TrIX before TWIX (thank God for the theme), PAsT before PATS (you play TAPS when someone has PAsT), SLicK before SLEEK...and digging my way out consumed a whole bunch of nanoseconds.

Amusing, liked it quite a bit more than Claire seemed to.

DavidP 2:58 AM  

"I'll never tire of reading anything F. Scott Fitzgerald writes"? Didn't Rex write just a few weeks ago that he had never read "Tender is the Night"?

chefwen 3:01 AM  

Hi Clare, nice to see you again.

I did enjoy this one, however, it was a little too cutesy for my taste. I guess I just don’t care for Elmer Fudd talk. OLD BAGOF TWIX was the only one that made me smile. I love TWIX bars, keep them in the freezer for a quick chocolate fix.

@Carola, in my hoard of cookbooks I have one from the Norske Nook, given to me by my Norwegian mother, she loved that place and their pies.

Mike in Mountain View 3:37 AM  

@Clare: bees before COMB. @jae: TrIX before TWIX. Took a lot longer than the typical Tuesday, but it was fun.

Good luck on your exam, Clare. FWIW, I'm sure you'll do fine.

Loren Muse Smith 3:57 AM  

Clare – you taught me a word! Rhotacism. Who knew? There’s also lambdacist – someone who can’t pronounce L’s. My daughter was a world-class rhotacist *and* lambdacist. Those two sounds are beastly hard to teach someone. I mean, think about it – how do you tell an ESL student to position their tongue, tense it, to produce the R in right or the L in feel? I used to tutor a TA at UNC from Korea who just couldn’t master it. I tried to get her to mimic a monster growling, like she was play-monster-chasing her little brother, but her monster sound did not involve a drawn-out R sound.

I loved this theme, but I felt guilty all the while. What with all the uber pc sentiment, I’m afraid I’ll be judged for laughing at someone’s inability. My favorite was FAMILY TWEEZE. Feels like some kind of creepy private ritual. Christmas tweeze could be preparing for the requisite picture on the beach with everyone in khakis and white shirts. (I saw a meme that said Get your relatives speaking to one another again by sending a heartfelt Christmas card with a picture of your family with an extra child nobody knows. Can you imagine? That white shirt khaki beach shot with an unknown kid? Oh. My. God. I wish I had thought of this.)

Our Halloween candy lasted well past February ‘cause Mom put our bags up on a shelf in the laundry room, and we were allowed one piece after supper. One. Piece.

Loved the clue for ADMIT, forcing people to recognize its noun-ness.

HOT WAX and TWEEZE. Yeah. Bet there are lots of emerging unibrows these days. And TOENAILS growing into talon proportions. At least among the wealthier, more pampered. So my first thought for “things pedicurists file” was unemployment claims.

“Cone” for COMB because I was distracted by CNN. COMB, womb, bomb. Someone needs to complain to the owner of English. Sheesh. Also – I could have sworn it was Major Duomo. I would have added that W sound. Oops. I didn’t even know it was one word. Despite the little struggle in the northwest, I managed to soldier on and finish with aplomb.

Nice one, Joel.

Qosmonaut 5:13 AM  

Best Tuesday puzzle in a while, but my time was definitely Wednesday.

GILL I. 6:26 AM  

You give me a puzzle that reminds me of Mel Blanc and Looney Tunes and you're gonna get the happy feet dance from me.
I remember when I first watched them. I'd stay at my grandmother's from time to time and she didn't have a TV. Her neighbor down the road had one and she'd invite me over every Saturday morning for pancakes and Porky Pig. My sisters and I were masters at coming up with all kinds of accents. You can't do that now because people will tell you it's not nice to fool Mother Nature.
I got to TOE NAILS and my mind began to do its normal wandering. I go to a pedicurist who is really a podiatrist. I like pretty toes and the big toe likes to be ingrown and all. He cuts it down just right and shows me how to put a little piece of cotton in there so it grows normal. It never does. I asked him why he chose a field in medicine that had to do with feet...he smiled and told me that it was probably the same reason a proctologist chooses his field.
Love the color LILAC and I always get TWIT mixed up with TWAT. Is that a NONO? Speaking of....
Fun puzzle señor Fagliano. We need a little FAMILY TWEEZE now and then.

Sydney 6:27 AM  

I really liked the puzzle. A great start to my day.

BarbieBarbie 6:28 AM  

I thought this was hilariously silly and very enjoyable. The clues were misdirecty enough to make me tear words out, which never happens on a Tuesday. I love a constructor/solver duel. And I got my very own Aha moment with no flashing neon arrow like Elmer Fudd to ruin it. Thanks Joel!

Rique Beleza 6:30 AM  

It’s not Rex writing the review - it’s someone who doesn’t feel the need to eschew great literature.

Lewis 6:35 AM  

This is how Tuesdays used to be, difficulty wise, with the introduction of some indirect clues and a couple of out-of-wheelhouse answers. This is very welcome. Oh, there is plenty of confidence building easiness in the grid for newish solvers, but let there be a bit of struggle as well, to prepare them for what the later week brings, and to give more veteran solvers some scratch and claw.

This is also a tight theme. I found it hard to come up with other possible TR to TW words -- Trill? Tryst? But then you have to find a common phrase to go with them.

And of course, the grid is junk-free. This is a JF puzzle, after all, and in all aspects, his skill shines through.

But, like @loren, I felt a little squeamish about this theme -- are we mocking a speech impediment here? Or is it just fun switch-a-letter wordplay? So my enjoyment of this solve comes with an asterisk.

Preferred Customer 7:03 AM  

Am I the only one bothered by it not being "company wetweet"?

amyyanni 7:04 AM  

Hi Claire, as to days of the week, they're all Blursdays. But don't miss your exam Friday.
@LMS, would be laughing at pedicurists filing unemployment claims but so many states' systems can't handle the load. Really sad.
Pleasantly surprised by having such a diverting Tuesday. And the theme is clever. Family Tweeze just brings to mind all sorts of ridiculous scenes.
Agree on enjoying Daisy, Sam, and Virginia Woolf. For some reason, Hot Wax made me think of the song "Hot Lunch" from the movie "Fame." That's a good thing. Grins, everyone.

pabloinnh 7:05 AM  

Kind of a slow start here, as Plymouth, where the rock is, is not on Cape Cod, so I spent some time trying to remember the name of the cape on Plymouth. Bad idea. There was some talk of quarantining the Cape, residents would have to stay there and so on. That didn't fly.

I liked the theme just fine, with the exception of OLDBAGOFTWIX, which had a superfluous OLD. The other ones made me smile, but then again another tenor and I like to find hymns in church with lots of r's in them so we can do Elmer Fudd versions. This may be just a tenor thing though.

Fun stuff on a Tuesday, JF. Thanks for the fun. And good luck to Clare.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Hardest Tuesday in at least a couple of years. Could have run on a Thursday or Friday and it would have felt normal.

4th themer is slightly disappointing as it does not change spelling. The others do.

FWIW, I’ve never heard of FACE SWAP, he said, aging himself twice.

Suzie Q 7:25 AM  

I thought this fun and the theme answers were hilarious. I really struggled in the beginning but I was in the mood for a challenge.
Family tweeze was my favorite. It conjures bizarre images sort of like a bunch of apes grooming each others' fur.

Joe Dipinto 7:39 AM  

"I thought I was gonna die. I mean, what was a toenail doing in my hamburger?"
– Roseanne Roseannadanna

I liked these theme answers, especially FAMILY TWEEZE. BLAMABLE doesn't irk me in the slightest, always nice to see OKAPI, and The OWL was/is the name of my high school newspaper. Otherwise the fill isn't that memorable but it does its job. Having Sam Spade and Edith Piaf in the puzzle together brought to mind this movie scene.

A solid Tuesday outing, FWIW.

ncmathsadist 7:39 AM  

It seems that themes are beginning to overrun "themeless Tuesday."

OffTheGrid 8:04 AM  

Hated the clue for ADMIT, forcing people to think of it as a noun.

Hungry Mother 8:15 AM  

Seemed sloggish for a Tuesday. Maybe my shot of Lysol slowed me down. I got the theme, and it helped, but I couldn’t get any speed.

mmorgan 8:19 AM  

Wow... I found this fun and clever. I had the first word of every themer and couldn’t make any sense of it, with the whole right side of the puzzle almost completely blank. I finally filled in TWAIN and I felt it had to be right but I had no idea why, not seeing the Elmer Fudd bit. Then TWEEZE and I was still confused. Rather than a bold, spectacular AHA, this was a slow lifting of the fog with TWIX. At that point, RETWEET filled itself in. Very nice!

Rug Crazy 8:20 AM  

First time I've seen TATTY in print.

Mike Herlihy 8:21 AM  

@Preferred Customer - it's RETWEET as on Twitter, not wETWEET.

Beth 8:22 AM  


Geezer 8:23 AM  

I think Clare's review was charitable. Cluing was off, not that it was difficult, just off. Theme was in poor taste. I always enjoy solving to some degree. There wasn't much degree here.

Paul Bobson 8:45 AM  

FWIW (I'm over 30), the Pilgrims first landed at what is now Provincetown on Cape Cod, but moved to Plymouth five weeks later.

Karen 9:00 AM  

My first thought on getting the theme was that Rex would be on a complete rant over its “un-PCness.” Let my breath out on the constructor’s behalf as soon as I saw Clare’s name!

TJS 9:07 AM  

Hurray for a Tuesday with a sense of humor, and a little gnarliness. I'm joining the group that had to pull out a lot of first guesses. "FHARP" went in, out, and back in again. Unusual for a Tuesday.

I did feel that "pats" was intentionally mis-clued. Where's the "aptness"?
And @LMS, what is so wonderful about "admit" as a noun ?? It's like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Nice to see that Claire is better-read than Rex. Maybe she is the one who got him to read Gatsby three years ago. {Is better-read a word ? Hell, it feels better than admit.)

OffTheGrid 9:08 AM  

Coincidentally I watched "Life of Brian" yesterday, with Caesar portrayed as being afflicted with rhotacism. It was a 90 minute laugh that I sorely needed. On Netflix.

TV recommendation for "Everybody Hates Chris". This Chris Rock narrated show is very entertaining, perfect for quarantine times. On HULU.

Joaquin 9:08 AM  

As if I'm not already having a hard time remembering what day of the week it is ... along comes a Wednesday on Tuesday. But a fun solve, even with the guilty feelings of what seemed to be making light of a speech impediment.

DavidL 9:09 AM  

I always found it confusing that "carat" and KARAT are totally different, one measuring weight and the other purity.

I also got a chuckle from the student reviewer (who's great, btw) dismissing FWIW as something "nobody under the age of 30" would write. Wow, that's a pretty low cut-off. Or maybe I'm just getting really old. Or maybe both.

Havana Man 9:17 AM  

“Retweet” doesn’t seem to work, right? It doesn’t have the Elmer Fuddness—that’s just how you say retweet! Should have been “wetweet” with the clue about a company outing, no?

Havana Man 9:25 AM  

yes exactly—thank you!!!

Anonymoose 9:29 AM  

I'm with @Offthegrid & @TJS on ADMIT as a noun. A good term for "Accepted college applicant" is student.

Another thing: Even with @Rex nowhere to be seen today, the haters are going after him.

RooMonster 9:32 AM  

Hey All !
Fun twip thwough the puz today. Had that slight bite feel to it that seemed Wednesday-ish, but still OK for Tuesday. Speech impediment here is not the make-fun-of type, it's a real affliction unfortunately,
and just used here for the purposes of providing a theme for a puz for our enjoyment, so don't read too deep into it.

@ncmathsadist 7:39
Whatchoo talkin''bout @nc? Tuesdays have always been themed in the Shortz era.

Re: Spelling Bee
Seems the ole brain isn't functioning correctly lately. YesterBee kicked my butt. Missed 13 answers! Dang! A few of those I should've gotten...
Today's is kicking me too. Will go back later to see if I can get some more.

HIGH SPEED TWAIN the funniest for me.

Six F's, Nice!

Teedmn 9:36 AM  

Tough Tuesday! The unknown FACE SWAP neatly fell right where I needed help in figuring out the theme. (dolT at 21D didn't help.) So I kept moving down the grid, trying to get at least one theme answer in order to help me in the NE. FWIW wasn't hard to see once FORTY went in but its clue was sending me in an IMHO direction even as I shook my head that "opinion" didn't belong in the clue. But FWIW provided two of the W's for theme answers so it was key when it finally filled in.

I was confusing Gatsby with his creator, wondering how SAM SPADE was going to accommodate its cross of Zelda. Forehead slap there.

31D, with HERE_____ in place, was hard to guess. HEREtofore fit neither the clue nor the grid space so that one needed all the crosses. Nice.

Joel, thanks for some Tuesday pizzazz. I'll share some of my OLD BAG OF TWIX with you!

JC66 9:41 AM  

Definitely tough for a Tuesday, beginning with 1A. To me, bunch implies plural and there's only one COMB.


Both PATS and TAPS are soft touches and anagrams of APT.

John R 9:50 AM  

@jae - I made the same mistakes, had olio and trix which made the NE hard to finish. Once I put in HASH, most of it filled in, but it took a few minutes to get FACESWAP. I didn't know that app, but it sounded better than FACESRAP.

This was my second day using the online app to do the puzzle. I'm getting a little better but it was still pretty slow going today.

Carola 9:50 AM  

Enjoyably goofy. After a wrong turn in the grocery aisle to TrIX cereal, I found my way to TWIX, which allowed easy access to the COMPANY RETWEET and FAMILY TWEEZE. I was stumped by the last one, though, which I had to piece together from the rear of the TWAIN - and which yielded the biggest internal smile. Also liked HERETICAL sharing the grid with PAPAL.

Help from previous puzzles: OLLA. No idea: FACESWAP, DISS track. Do-over: isNT before AINT.

@chefwen - Lucky you! Their rhubarb pie ala mode....

@Tale Told By An Idiot - Loved it, thanks.

Bruce R 9:59 AM  

I agree with Claire about the EMTs clue being weird. Volunteers at music festivals? I had always assumed EMTs were paid, you know, from ticket sale revenue.

xyz 10:06 AM  

1A a very poor clue

Otherwise, the puzzle lacked VANILLA to be complete

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

another vote for Elmer - wetweet, and such.

"He speaks in an unusual way, replacing his Rs and Ls with Ws, so he always refers to Bugs Bunny as a "scwewy wabbit". Elmer's signature catchphrase is, "Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I'm hunting wabbits", as well as his trademark laughter. "
the wiki

so..... it isn't just TR becomes TW, but all R become W. not to mention FAMIwY... the xword... rightup doesn't reference Elmer, so I suppose it's a bit anal to diss the puzzle for not following through. you siwwy wabbit.

Newboy 10:10 AM  

COMB with a ??? Clue seemed questionable. You silly rabbit, up to that OLD BAG OF TWIX to fool this old fuddy duddy? Hard to get started at the top and so I went looking for a reveal somewhere beTWIX tho 1A & 54D. Saved by PPP that I knew from previous puzzle work, but Justice Sotomayor isn’t a SONjA unfortunately. Some old friends from previously solved grids dropped in: OLLA, OKAPI, WOOLF, PIAF and company. Probably tough for new solvers, but predictable for those who have enjoyed the Shortz era for a while. PIAF always brings a rush of memories and a confirmation of Rick’s observation: one visit and “we’ll always have Paris.” Great fun to start the day & even with some TATTY cluing that ranged from gimme to FWIW and on to WTF? a grid worth a tip of the beanie to Joel.

P.S. Norte Dame was crowded & over hyped, but certainly is a memory maker of the first order.

burtonkd 10:17 AM  

@JC66 & TJS, I couldn’t get past thinking of the trumpet song TAPS. Thought it was misclued also because it reminded people of the past, then TJS triggered thinking of PATS as patriots, so was appropriate. In life, the simplest answer is usually the best, so thank you for the gentle TAP or PAT on the shoulder to remind me.

Welease Wodewick!! As with so many Monty Python bits, they are more fun to remember than actually sit through.

@pabloinhh, the Elmer Fuddicization of the hymns reminded me how much fun we had in youth church choir. Something about sneaking in some clowning in a stuffy situation makes laughing at really stupid little things irresistible. I think I’ll program Wok of Ages in your honor this Sunday. Or “On Kwaaaaist the solid Wok I Stand”

There is a huge grove of LILACS at the New York Botanical Garden that should be out about now, maybe just past. Despite being a huge outdoor space, it is sadly closed. Parking lots and other bottlenecks and occasional huge crowds, I get it. I always love the smell, but then get too much of a nose full and seasonal allergies kick in. Worth sneezing the rest of the day for...

I love seeing Clare develop her own voice in these write ups. Still uncannily channels OFL for part of post.

mathgent 10:19 AM  

I had trouble making sense out of COMPANYRETWEET until I came here this morning. Yes, it should have been COMPANYWETWEET. Even with that improvement it’s a little clunky. I have a feeling that this started out as a Sunday puzzle but Mr. Fagliano couldn’t find enough of the themers.

Are there many lispers around anymore? My son had a serious lisp when he was in the lower grades here in the San Francisco public schools. One of the district speech therapists worked with him for a couple of years and now he has better than average pronunciation. He acts on the stage.

What? 10:29 AM  

Nothing like making fun of a speech defect to start the day right. Where is that wabbit? Haha.

KnittyContessa 10:30 AM  

OLLA made me smile, haven't seen that in awhile. Had OLIO before HASH. POLO before GOLF.

I agree with Clare, a revealer would have been nice but still a fun Tuesday.

Stay well everyone!

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Rhotacism Is a great word to learn. Thanks.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

Clare: as a law student you must know of people wrongfully incarcerated who spend years locked up and you’re complaining about a few measly weeks of self imposed isolation?

Nancy 10:48 AM  

I bet when Joel made this puzzle, he wasn't thinking of it for a Tuesday. It's quite a bit harder than that, and for that reason I really, really liked it. I had one hiccup: I thought TrIX was the candy, so I initially -- having never heard of FACE SWAP --ended up with FACES rAP. I think I was mixing up the candy and the cereal. There is a TRIX cereal, yes? But the theme enabled me to correct.

The clue/answer for HIGH SPEED TWAIN was worth the price of admission.

It there's a music festival that expects to need EMTS on the scene, remind me to miss it.

I doubt I'm the first one to notice this, and I'm late to the blog today, having overslept, but I noticed an orange theme. COMB-over BLAMABLE and GOLF over LIAR. Oh, yes, and there's LOAF and POOR and LAME and FATAL too. Can this be an accident?

Unusually enjoyable Tuesday puzzle.

Just celebrated 35th anniversary 10:49 AM  

@LMS: The first Christmas after our marriage, my wife and I borrowed five children for our Christmas card picture. Four of the children were about the same age (about one year old), and blond, and each of those sets of parents had independently decided to dress their blond child in red for the picture, so that really helped sell it.

Linguistics student 11:07 AM  

Rhotacism is a contranym. It can also mean adding or creating an r sound, such as when an s sound becomes an r sound (over a long period, as a historical change in a language's pronunciation).

Frantic Sloth 11:09 AM  

For years of solving these puzzles I've wanted that frequently clued "Cape" to be COD.
Much to my chagrin, "Ann" was nearly always the answer.

Now, after all those years of indoctrination, they throw a "cape" clue at me and despite knowing what @pabloinnh 705 and @Paul Bobson825 know, I was afraid that if I dared to crack open the door in order to ADMIT COD, some invisible crossword watchdog would slam it on my fingers.

How sick is that?

The puzzle didn't send me, but learning "rhotacism" was worth the investment - thanks, Clare. Good luck on your final.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  


for those of us in the data biz, we worship at the feet of Dr. CODd. yet to find him in a puzzle, for some reason.

Whatsername 11:23 AM  

I’m pretty much with Clare this morning and found some of the clues on the odd side, EMTs in particular. As others have mentioned, I kept looking for an Elmer Fudd connection since without that distinction, the theme made me a little uncomfortable. Anyway that’s what I think FWIW. Oops, never mind. I guess saying that made me sound like an OLDBAG of Twix.

@Birchbark: On Saturday, you suggested an archive puzzle from April 1, 2002. I did that one yesterday and just wanted to say thanks for recommending it. Wow! That was an incredible feat of construction. Glad I took the time to go back and do that one. It was fun.

egsforbreakfast 11:26 AM  

Clare (aka Rachel or Claire), says FWIW isn’t part of the under 30 scene. Its placement in the puzzle, however, has it in the under 40 category. Who to believe? Clare or Joel?

I’m relieved that so many found the puzzle harder than a typical Tuesday. I thought maybe my brain was just underperforming when I finished in a Wednesday/Thursday time. I, like Lewis, tried to come up with more tr/tw swaps that could be utilized in well-known phrases, and got only a few very, very feeble results.

Thanks for a nice write-up, Clare, and good luck on Friday’s test.

pabloinnh 11:33 AM  

@Paul Bobson-(nice name, BTW)-yeah, I knew that about P'town. Overthinking on my part.

@burtonkd-I'd be honored, but be sure to make it "On Chwist the sowid wock I stand". That's what we would do. (Be vewy vewy quiet. We're singing the Gworia Patwi.)

Ernonymous 11:41 AM  

I wrote a reply to someone yesterday and to my paisan @joe dipinto about the double consonants in Italian but it vanished before publishing so I stormed off in a rage. But I've since drank a 6 pack of Aldi's fake Corona Beer, called Cerveza Monterrey. Aldi's fake Sam Adams is pretty good too, it's called Independence Ale.
We all know about the Spanish non-Tildaed or Tilda-less ANO meaning anus and not year in many crossword puzzles. In Italian there is a similar situation between ANO and ANNO. If you don't double the "N" in Anno, you risk saying Happy New Anus!

I only recently learned the word MAJODOMO. I was reading an old copy of TOPOLINO, which is a Mickey Mouse magazine they sell in Italy to adults. It is very popular there. Donald Duck was going on and on about how he was going to be the greatest MAJORDOMO in history and I was thinking "what the F is a majordomo?" so I looked it up and I guess it stuck with me. Thanks Donald Duck, you da man! I mean you da duck!

I know the word Rhotacism because my father was a Speech Therapist and he was always going on about it. He said that if you don't correct the W for R in childhood, you will never get rid of it. He said it was a very difficult one to correct. He got all concerned about my son when he was 4. He is 28 now and speaks just fine. But then again my Mother in Law was sure he was going to be bowlegged as an adult too.

Newboy 11:42 AM  

@Joe Dipinto (7:39)
Thanks for the great parody clip! Casablanca is as easy as a lisp to make fun of & The Cheap Detective definitely goes on the viewing schedule along side Life of Brian with The Princess Bride waiting in the wings. Funny that I didn’t cringe at the PC sinfulness in this context—something for a counselor to address no doubt. Also found @Nancy (10:48) riff on that ASS SEEN ON TV adding great value to appreciation of today’s fine effort.
And belated thanks for Clare’s usual balanced write up.Test should be a snap for anyone as cleaver as she/(her for @LMS)😈

jberg 11:43 AM  

I really enjoyed this theme,especially FAMILY TWEEZE; but they're all pretty good. Somehow, I didn't think of Elmer Fudd or speech defects, just thought of it as consonant changes.

And all of you complaining it should be wETWEET, you're just wrong. The TR sound is changed to TW; there are no TRs in the grid, and no other TWs. There are other T-less Rs, and they are not changed.

I use FWIW a lot, but not the way the clue suggests. For me (and most of the times I see it) it means "here's a little fact that is worth considering." The clue is a better fit for IMHO.

@Loren, I just tried it out, and for R my tongue is back there on my palate, while for L it is up toward the front of my mouth. Am I missing something? I do know that a lot of Japanese speakers have trouble with those two letters, but I think that's because they can't hear the difference between them.

Anyway, as a little reward for all you contribute to the blog, here's a picture of a major duomo.

OK, onto the toenails. First of all, @Clare, best wishes for your exam! It doesn't sound like you'd want to fall back on a career as a pedicurist. Second, @Gill, you remind me of my experience getting colonocopies every three years. The Dr. who does it sends me a letter afterward explaining the results, which always begins "It was a pleasure to see you today." Gets a laugh every time.

Finally, a question for any literary scholars here. The author Sholem Aleichem, which is a pseudonym based on a common phrase, is always referred to be the full name, on the ground that Aleichem alone would be inappropriate. OTOH, Mark Twain is frequently referred to as "Twain" tout court. Is that because the phrase his pseudonym comes from is only common among riverboat pilots? Or is there some other logic to it?

Tom R 11:47 AM  

You ever have trouble parsing multiwords in puzzles? 8D just about did me in. I don't do any photo shop and much in any apps, but face swap would be very getable/guessable. I bombed on "faces wap" and could not even see it until I got to the blog afterwards just filling it in from crosses. I said to self "Huh. Faces Wap? Whatever"

No pedicures or podiatrist am I 11:50 AM  

I think that confining the substitution of TR with TW actually skirts around the idea that the constructor is making fun of people with that sort of (rhotocism?). Therefore, in MY mind WETWEET is not appropriate.
I enjoyed the puzzle because it presented a wee bit more of a challenge than most Tuesdays. However, like Clare, I find TOENAILS kind of an unpleasant thing to look at in an xword.

Joe Dipinto 11:53 AM  

For the Wetweetists – the change being made is "TR" to "TW", not just "R" to "W". And the new word has to be a real word (or name). RETWEET, TWIX, TWEEZE, and TWAIN work on both those premises. WETWEET does not.

And forget Elmer Fudd.

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

OK, so is Plymouth really a Cape Cod town? Could be. The current demarcation of the Cape is the canal, but that's a man made artefact. If you look closely at a map, you'll see that the 'waist' of landmass continues up through Buzzards Bay, so at least the south end of Plymouth would be 'inside' the Cape area if line were drawn to the NE, or NNE, into Cape Cod Bay, which Plymouth borders without debate. So, either way, the Pilgrims landed at Cape Cod, even before it got its name or canal.

Nancy 12:15 PM  

I sing a dirge for clueless Elmer Fudd
Whose name, today, was dragged across the mud:

Oh, Elmer, times have changed since you were drawn,
So is it any wonder that you've gone?

Because you "mocked" a speech impediment
Some people cheered in rapture when you went:

"Be off to somewhere far we'll never see.
And take that wabbit with you when you flee!"

Bill 12:44 PM  

Oh boy fun with speech defects! Can't wait for the lisping and stuttering puzzles! If we're lucky, maybe even a puzzle mocking those with Tourette's Syndrome.

Pamela 12:45 PM  

Oh, the difference a couple of generation can make! I thought this was a perfect Tuesday. Just enough trickier than Monday, but still pretty easy and fun. I see FWIW pretty often, funny that Claire doesn’t. I got the theme pretty early, with TWIX, then TWEET became obvious. After that, I knew what to look for, thought it was cute. No revealer necessary. I loved HIGHSPEEDTWAIN and the clue for WRIST.

Bees before COMB, got FACESWAP only from crosses, SpOT before SLOT, PasT before PATS.

The slump clue for SATUP took me into mental health territory...pretty appropriate these days, at least around here. The only thing that keeps me from bouncing off the walls after weeks upon weeks of NYC on PAUSE is knowing how many are out there taking care of us- health care providers, delivery people and all the other essential workers. I cheer for them along with the rest of the city at 7pm every night. Last night I saw an elderly woman on the street banging a metal pie pan with a spoon. I wonder if she knows- or knew- someone who was sick.

Now I’m off to read the rest of your comments. See you later!

Pamela 12:49 PM  

Dear Claire,

* Until further notice the days of the week are now called Thisday, Thatday, Otherday, Someday, Yesterday, Today and Nextday. 
* Day [Insert your day here…if you can remember!] of isolating: Well, I just wiped down a container of Lysol wipes with Lysol wipes, so I’m fine, everything is fine.
* I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to Puerto Backyard. I'm getting tired of Los Livingroom. 


Ernonymous 12:52 PM  

Toenails always reminds me of an episode on The Middle. The mother polished off the bottom of an old bag of potato chips she found on the sofa. Her son Axel had clipped his toenails into that bag! She was horrified! I'm still traumatized.

Smith 1:13 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. Thought it was easier than Clare did FWIW :)

In case you hapoen to notice this: someone else is posting on nytimes as Smith, which I'm surprised about, but also *horrified* because said person lives in a red state and has decidedly red state views [hair standing in end]. That is not me!!

I'm a blue state gal all the way.

Just so you know. Even though I don't post here that often.

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

Thanks for the laugh @ Pamela. Have a nice trip!

Myuen88 1:26 PM  

I loved The Twits. Someone gave me that book when I was in college (1981 or so). Years later, I read it to my kids (2000-2005-ish)

What? 1:27 PM  

And for our next pu-pu-puzzle, well make fun of how deaf people speak.🤬

Z 1:32 PM  

I am definitely using “Hah! Moment” soon.

I circled the EMTS clue and shouted (mentally) “OMFG!!!!” If they are using volunteer EMTS don’t go. I am loath to ever say a clue is “wrong,” and maybe somewhere or sometime a musical festival used volunteer EMTS, but no no No. You want highly trained well paid professionals.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more comments about Clare’s quote selection. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. If Rex had used that quote we all would know he was throwing shade at the NYTX. With Clare, maybe not.

I watched The Jane Austen Book Club last night (desperate times result in desperate measures), and I was genuinely pleased with the Ursula K. Le Guin subplot. If you don’t realize that Le Guin writes circles around Fitzgerald you just aren’t literate, are you.*

Right with @Lewis and @LMS - The theme doesn’t bother me as is, but I can see how someone with a speech impediment might not appreciate it. I am very thankful there was no revealer because I have no faith in the crew’s ability to avoid inadvertently deeply offending some group if they had tried.

@jberg - regarding your Mark Twain question. I have no idea, but my instinctive reaction was because people like to make up random rules.

Speaking of which, I chortled at ADMIT exactly because it would bug people. The descriptivist version of fingernails on a chalkboard. Juvenile? Probably.

@Anonymoose - Amen!

*Note - Sarcasm via hyperbole. I don’t actually think you are ill read if you’ve missed Le Guin.

egsforbreakfast 1:47 PM  

@Z 1:32. You may have OMFGed unnecessarily. I don’t know a thing about how music festivals staff their medical needs, but my assumption from reading the clue was that professional EMTs volunteer for the festivals in exchange for free admission.

Meeek! 1:49 PM  

Hard for a Tuesday and that made it great! Loved the theme.

Smith 1:52 PM  

@ Smith

Me...sorry for so many typos...I do this on my phone and the type-in box is tiny.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  


Never cottoned to Fitz. Just seemed too social climbing wanna be to me. His output was small, in terms of novels completed. Made most of his money churning out short pieces and screen work for money. Just like any other assembly line worker. There, I've said it. A Ford man to the bone.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

Clare, good luck on your exam--but someone should raise an objection to a scheduling of a final exam on May 1. Before I retired one of my classes every now and then had an exam on May 1. I always objected, but I could not reschedule it for everyone, especially in a large class. But I always put on the syllabus that if anyone objected to the date for political reasons, I would reschedule it for him or her. Right-wing deans will fall all over themselves for the silliest PC causes, but attempt to honor a day celebrated internationally by the left and working classes, and there is no hope. Perhaps May 1 could be renamed transgendered pronoun day--that would get their attention!

Anon. i.e. Poggius

Masked and Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Pretty TWANKY puz. And the COMB clue immediately announced the ensuin fight, at our house.

fave fillins: WHUPS. HERETIC(AL). HOTWAX. TOENAILS. FWIW [crossin twin-tweemers!]
Wanted OLIO instead of HASH, which left the NE solvequest-inert for quite a spell.

Had to wander about masked & aimlessly, to get into this puppy, at all. First entries (other than OLIO) ended up bein all the way down at OKAPI/KARAT. Woulda shoulda coulda checked out the OPEC clue earlier, as that eventually got m&e into the NW, when I finally be-held it.
Oh, the nano-seconds …

staff weeject pick: SFO. Only 4 candidates showed up, tho. SFO is sorta like a themer version of SOFA, but not exactly.
fave funny themer: OLDBAGOFTWIX. Really mangles the TRICKS-word, at both ends. Primo.

Thanx for the feisty fun, Mr. Fagliano.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


CT2Napa 2:16 PM  

What is the letter we love

Birchbark 2:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Birchbark 2:28 PM  

SAM SPADE entr'acte -- I think I'll read the Maltese Falcon after Volume 1 of James Boswell's "Life of Samuel Johnson," which is in sight.

@Whatsername (11:23) -- Glad you enjoyed that puzzle.

CT2Napa 2:37 PM  

Oh, and point of interest for all who are commenting on speech defects, "TR" to TW", and/or rhotacism. It is all in YOUR heads. The clues all go directly to the answers "retweet", "Twix", "tweeze", and "Twain". There is no revealer, no mention of Elmer Fudd, no indication of speech impedimant. All of those concepts are coming from your own thoughts.

tea73 2:41 PM  

@kitchef thanks for the answer to my comment about landrovers!

I lived in Munich for five years and at some point dh and I thought it would be amusing to take a course especially designed for foreigners who already spoke pretty good German to improve their accents. Our teacher told us that she could do a lot, but that it was almost impossible to correct anyone's r's completely, though she could usually improve them somewhat. The Asians and the Americans from the midwest had the hardest time approximating a German r.

I was occasionally asked to answer the phone in my German office (I was an architect) when the secretaries were at lunch. It was always a game to see how far I could get before someone would realize I wasn't German. I could do a mean "Planungsbüro HP, grüß Gott!" but I rarely got more than a sentence or two more out before someone would ask me where I was from. I considered it a win, that they rarely recognized my accent as American.

john towle 2:56 PM  

GILLI inre twit for twat…that’s easy you wascally wabbit: just wemove the ww’s & you’ve got tit for tat🤪


Krytykal 3:34 PM  

I almost always disagree with Rex, and I disagree with ersatz-Rex today. Fine Tuesday puzzle.

QuasiMojo 3:37 PM  

@Nancy, you are on a roll today! Brava!

Anoa Bob 4:19 PM  

"East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet. And that's good 'cause they wun on the same twack."

Elmer "Rudyard Kipling" Fudd

Doc John 4:46 PM  

Whew! So I'm not the only one who thinks of Roseanne Rosannadanna when I see the word TOENAILS.

RooMonster 4:50 PM  

So apparently no one heeded my post about not taking the theme seriously.

C'mon people! Stop getting upset at Every. Single. Thing. you possibly can. That's Rex's job.

It's a crossword puz, it requires a theme. This one was changing TR sound to TW sound for punniness and a chuckle. We all need a check chuckle after weeks of nothingness.

Lighten up! Smile! Stop thinking so much!

RooMonster Life Is Fine Guy

egsforbreakfast 4:55 PM  

@Anoa Bob 4:19 Isn’t that Wudyawd Kipling?

Joe Dipinto 5:01 PM  

@CT2Napa –


Those are the source phrases. Then TR changes to TW in each answer. It's not "all in my head." Maybe you don't understand the point of the question mark ending each clue.

Frantic Sloth 5:29 PM  

@Pamela 1249pm Had to steal and post your DOtW on FB. I personally know many people who would thank you - as do I!

Z 5:43 PM  

@egsforbreakfast - no no No. Overdoses. heat stroke. accidents. just regular old medical emergencies that are bound to happen to any randomly selected large group. You don’t want your EMTS dancing to BTS or jammin’ with DMB or grooving to the soulful crooning of Aloe Blacc (I really want to see him in a puzzle soon). You want highly trained well paid professionals. I don’t do music festivals, but I do organize athletic events with 400-500 participants. The governing body has very specific requirements for medical staffing. I’m guessing a music festival organizer can’t get insurance or permits without meeting some similar guidelines.

@CT2Napa - As presented I would agree with you, a simple letter substitution leading to wacky phrases puzzles. But @Joe DiPinto is also right, people didn’t just make this up. This particular letter substitution very specifically suggests rhotacism.

egsforbreakfast 6:11 PM  

@Anoa Bob. I’m saddened to report that your spirit animal is not accepted as a word in today’s SB, even though it meets all of the requirements other than being in some mysterious (to me anyway) word list. I’m even more shocked by the unacceptability of another 4 letter word that has been in the English language for over 100 years, is still in frequent use as a noun, verb and adjective and is not a variant spelling of anything.

@Z 5:43. My unresearched assumption was that a certain number of EMTs were admitted gratis on the condition that they abide by appropriate standards, I.e. they get to hear music, but are completely on duty. This may have been a bad assumption, but I don’t think the clue-writer was advocating for stoned and/or inebriated medical service providers.

webwinger 6:18 PM  

Somehow managed to be busy today, doing nothing of much consequence but not getting around to Rexworld until late. My take on the puzzle was close to Clare’s—not great but OK, a little more effort than most Tuesdays. Nice write up!

Interesting exchange in comments between @DavidP 2:58 and @Rique 6:30 re @Rex and FScott.

@LMS: Re family photo with mystery child, just watched Caddyshack, for the first time ever. Gag in an early scene showing a family at home with many many kids (apparently based on the real life clan of writer Brian Doyle-Murray and star Bill Murray) had dad at the breakfast table confronting an unknown youngster. Movie was fun overall, a real time capsule, especially when viewed with unusually long and informative making-of feature from 30th anniversary year 2010 on the blu-ray.

Things pedicurists file = unemployment claims? Har! One of many mysteries concerning response to the present quandary is how anyone could have believed that asking government on very short notice to pay astronomical amounts of money to millions of people whose jobs vanished overnight was going to be anything but a huge SNAFU.

Re discussion from yesterday’s comments about elision and “snudity”: Came across this today in a newspaper columnist’s collection of notable RETWEETs: “Hi, I'm Howard, and I'm an alcoholic, a drunkard, a souse, a boozehound, a lush [and a WINO?]. Thanks for coming to this meeting of Alcoholics Synonymous.” Might be therapeutic for OFL...

egsforbreakfast 6:34 PM  

@Z 5:43. Maybe we both missed the point. According to Wiko, E.M.T. Was also a 1970s experimental and free improvising music group. Well, to my way of thinking, if they were “free” improvising, they were volunteers and were probably at music festivals.

Z 7:45 PM  

@egsforbreakfast - First, I love your avatar. Second, I didn’t think Shortz and company were advocating anything so much as working under a false assumption. I was this close to saying “wrong,” but if Altamonte can have Hell’s Angels as security it’s probably best to never say never. Since I have to hear bitchin about the cost of playing at a tournament I may be a little overly sensitive on the issue. I absolutely loudly thought “OMFG” when I realized the answer this morning. Not the initials, either.

Computer 20 10:49 PM  

Oddly misplaced anger friend.

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Didn’t like it at all, until the last few answers emerged. It’s all about me.

Burma Shave 8:48 AM  


I ADMIT it AIN’T drivin’ Miss DAISY,
or GOIN’ FORTY in the fast LANE,


spacecraft 11:15 AM  

Thursday called; he wants his puzzle back.

Seriously: BLAMABLE? Who says that? They say "culpable," is what they say. And TATTY?? As in The Illustrated Man?? No, by golly it's an actual word. Again, Nobody Ever SAYS It, but it is a word. People have said RICOH, I'm sure, but it was unknown to me. Crosses saved me.

The clues also were beyond Tuesday level. The puzzle itself--the solving experience--was fine, just weirdly misplaced. Seeing it today was the most jarring aspect of it. At first I had TrIX in my OLD BAG, and who knew from some techy app? You could sell "Faces Rap" to me and I'd probably buy it. But then, I said wait a second: Trix is a cereal, not candy. TWIX is candy! So I dodged that pothole. ADMIT as a noun is another example of Beyond-Tuesday-ness. I assume the stress would be on the first syllable? HAS to be better than "admittee."

DOD is Catherine Bach, she of DAISY Duke fame. Right puzzle; wrong SLOT--for which Joel is not (gulp) BLAMABLE. Birdie.

Diana, LIW 1:22 PM  

Despite the couple of odd words (see @Spacey's comments) I found this puzzle quite doable. Maybe I'm BLAMABLE. (ugh)

And yes, as an ex-admitter of students, ADMIT in this instance has the emphasis on the first syllable. "We had a number of good admits this week."

Not two twickie.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

rondo 3:36 PM  

Got it all on the first twy, except for twansposing PAst to PATS. TRULY breaks the pattern, but it’s a down, not across. And TWIT don’t fit.

Is a Vatican restroom toilet PAPAL?

SONIA AINT a POOR choice, SCOTUS after all, and as noted above, Shania TWAIN.

ONLY puz I’m GOIN to do today, AINT GOIN to DISS it.

leftcoaster 4:45 PM  

Got hung up for a time in the NE corner, but HASHed it out.

Fun puzzle, cute theme, nice work by JF.

Anonymous 11:04 PM  

FWIW - A little tired of STYE & SONIA & NET & EMTS, and didn't know that RICOH made cameras, but overall I was a bit fonder of this puzzle than Clare & others were. Challenging for a Tuesday.

And academic question: What would be a word for an unaccepted college applicant ?
DENIED ? With emphasis on the first syllable ?

Good week so far.

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